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Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer
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Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  1,842 Ratings  ·  243 Reviews
From Bangkok to Bogotá, a hilarious behind-the-brochures tour of picture-perfect locales, dangerous destinations, and overrated hellholes from a guy who knows the truth about travel

Travel writer, editor, and photographer Chuck Thompson has spent more than a decade traipsing through thirty-five (and counting) countries across the globe, and he's had enough. Enough of the ha
Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 27th 2007 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30)
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Amanda L
In sum: disparaging remarks about nearly every region the world, replete with reductionist stereotyping. Sure, you'll laugh of loud, but it might be followed by an immense shame that you're eating up a racist's (is he? or is he just too consumed with his grandiose ego to realize when a joke is about to cross a very definitive line? still can't say) generalizations. Is it any wonder that his grand conclusion is that Belgium, one of the more racist, nationalist places on earth, is hands-down the m ...more
Nov 01, 2009 Mateo rated it it was ok
Thompson's a smart and funny writer with some excellent and funky travel stories, a jaundiced worldview, and precious little respect for sacred cows. So points for that. But the book's basically a concatenation of what-shall-I-piss-on-now rants wrapped in lad-magazine snarkiness. Here's a short list, from memory, of some of the things that Thompson dislikes: travel magazines, feminists, Dallas, Eric Clapton, travel writers, expats, locals, the Caribbean, and American teachers (for complaining ab ...more
Jul 28, 2009 Valerie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Valerie by: Bill, Holly
Shelves: arewethereyet
Insights into the life of a travel writer. The real reason they travel, someone is paying them. One of my favorite bits was about the fallacy of taxi drivers as people who know what's going on in any city. However, he kept alluding to travel writing as that glossy magazine sell you something kind of writing, and I don't read much of that. Almost all of the travel writing I read Bryson, Cahill, O'Hanolan, Salzman, O'Rourke, Bass is of the more personally honest variety, so it took me a while to a ...more
Anne Walbridge
Oct 06, 2008 Anne Walbridge rated it did not like it
Felt like being stuck in some sweaty tropical dive bar, sticky counter and all, trapped next to some guy trying way too hard to be cool.
Geoff Carter
Dec 30, 2007 Geoff Carter rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: travelers, voyeurs, jetsetters, embittered writers of fluff and ephemera
Here's the deal: Chuck Thompson has spent years writing freelance travel stories for The Atlantic, Esquire, Maxim and the like, and over the course of these 322 pages, he burns it all down. Early on, he sets up this collection of (true, but no doubt embellished) anecdotes by telling you that he's going to share all the travel stories that the Conde Nast crowd isn't ready to hear; what he ends up doing is telling you about his druggy coming-of-age in Alaska, his Hunter Thompson-like cadre of frie ...more
Wendy Baxter
Jun 03, 2008 Wendy Baxter rated it did not like it
Who knew that the best travel experiences and therefore the best travel writing consist primarily in the amount of booze, blow and blow jobs to be had? Not only that, but apparently this makes for authentic travel writing and anyone not including these things is obviously blowing sunshine up the reader's ass. And here I thought all along travel and travel writing was all about beauty and education. Silly me. And no, I didn't bother finishing this book. After the seemingly endless list of things ...more
Jul 21, 2012 Pete rated it it was ok
In many ways, I am the sort of writer that this book is lampooning. I've trotted out clichés and purple prose for luxury travel brochures for the past six years. I try not to, but as Thompson neatly puts it:

'A big problem with travel writers is that they're all essentially required to share the same opinion about everything [due to the increasing need to sell first and inform second]. As a result, their copy tends to be defined by how many clever variations they can conceive while riffing on the
May 24, 2008 YoSafBridg rated it it was ok
I almost put down Chuck Thompson's smile when you're lying: confessions of a rogue travel writer before i was 50 pages into it with the intention of never finishing it (which is something i rarely do~sometimes i will put down a book with every intention of finishing it and not ever doing so but for some reason i often plow through many as i ended up doing with this one~and there were a few interesting parts~more than a few in actuality...) It was Thompson's caustic personality that put me off mo ...more
Miramira Endevall
Dec 06, 2009 Miramira Endevall rated it it was ok
Recommended to Miramira by: Valerie
This is one of the most whiny travelogues I've ever read. Does Thompson honestly believe that travelers buy into all the hoak printed in travel magazines, or in (gods forbid) in-flight magazines? Okay, sure, he was forced to regurgitate idiotic platitudes when writing for such magazines, and the poor boy only traveled to certain places because be was being paid to do it. But for crying out loud, dude, you were PAID TO TRAVEL. In every job I've ever had, I've had to regurgitate sappy crap for som ...more
Feb 21, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Certainly, I am not nearly as much of a seasoned travel writer as Mr. Thompson (its been two years for me) but I still found many reasons to disagree with him on a variety of points, mainly in his use of so many generalizations. Like, the entire Caribbean sucks. Thompson says this then forces the reader to slog through his interrogation of a colleague who writes about Caribbean travel. It is painful. Also, the Caribbean doesn't suck, St. John is a paradise, as my travel documentarian friend and ...more
Lisa Schmeiser
Apr 22, 2013 Lisa Schmeiser rated it it was ok
It says something about our world when a travel book published in 2008 feels like a quaint relic of an earlier era -- but this one does. Perhaps it's because so many of Thompson's essays are linked to his travels and experiences in the 1990s, and that truly is an era of travel we're never going to get back in this world of tiny bottles and shoeless security checks.

Still, this book has glimmers of potential: Thompson almost has the Joe Queenan knack for the comedic stiletto as descriptive sentenc
Rich Saskal
Mar 20, 2013 Rich Saskal rated it really liked it
"Smile When You're Lying" is a memoir by veteran travel writer Chuck Thompson pitched as a takedown exposé of the travel writing genre.
While Thompson's cynical gonzo persona itself comes across as much of a cliche as the many travel writing cliches he mocks, the proof is on the page, and I kept turning them.
After reading Thompson's own deflation of some of the common rubrics of the travel -writing trade, I can't be sure if any of the tales he tells about himself are themselves true or, more to t
Jan 02, 2008 Catherine rated it it was ok
By Thompson's own admission, on page 208 he writes, "I'm not, as a rule, what's known as a "charmer" with the ladies." In my estimation, that's an understatement. Thompson muses about his pals' bad behavior but consistently claims to have shied away from any transgressions himself. Yeah, right. I found his writing to be not only crass, but also disjointed at times and peppered with unimportant digressions. There were a few stories referring to sports where he really lost my interest altogether. ...more
Apr 07, 2008 Betsy rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, 2008-read-in
I would like to rate this book at least a 4; it brings to life a world of travel that magazines and guidebooks just don't. Here we get the inside scoop of why we hear the stories that we do, and why we don't hear the stories we don't. Confessions... is an engrossing tale for adventurous travelers as well as writers or wannabes (like me).

My problem, then? This book is grossly objectifying of women. I gave it measurable latitude, too, because he was going into other cultures and talking about him
Faye Dewell
Jun 23, 2013 Faye Dewell rated it it was ok
Shelves: other, 2013
I enjoyed the first half of the book but honestly by the second half I was bored. I finished it for the sake of finishing it but struggled to do so. I'm not sure if it was because I wanted the big overarching narrative/quest for meaning that he clearly states he won't give, or the fact that I wanted more of an expose on the travel industry and less of a personal narrative, or because I found his narrative self-indulgent, either way, it wasn't my favourite travel memoir. I just found the story go ...more
May 16, 2009 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
I would probably give this book 2.5 stars if I had that option, but I do think it deserves more than 2 stars. I didn't care for the beginning of this book at all, since it focused on the Thai sex trade, and reading about women having to (choosing to??) degrade themselves by catering to horny jerks with money to blow is not at all appealing to me. But other parts of the book were better. Thompson does come off as somewhat arrogant and condescending at times, but sometimes he does make interesting ...more
Kathleen Seal
May 18, 2008 Kathleen Seal rated it it was amazing
Satirical, but honest, exploration of the travel industry-both myths and realities. Often hysterical accounts of his travel experiences around the world (although some not so funny at the time, I imagine). A few helpful hints to snooker the travel industry are thrown in along the way. Highly recommended for anyone who travels or is thinking about traveling abroad.
Jan 04, 2014 Laura rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2014
I really wanted to like this, but the guy came across as such a douchebag so much of the time. So self-important, so often condescending, it just irritated me. Sure, he has some sage advice and, yes, he gives some honest insight about travel writers and locales, but overall I just didn't care for the book as a whole. I finished it, though, so that says something, I suppose.
Feb 09, 2014 Darcie rated it really liked it
Thanks to this very good read, I will now plan a trip to Columbia before I plan a trip to Jamaica, will think twice about buying a Lonely Planet guide book, and yes, I will lie and bribe when overseas.
May 19, 2008 Eh?Eh! rated it it was ok
Shelves: babble-added
eh. the synopsis was deceiving, implying there would be stories of the travel-underbelly. nope, or rather, not much of interest. lots of complaining, lots of reflection on the travel industry.
Jeff Ereverock
Jan 16, 2010 Jeff Ereverock rated it it was ok
Travel industry whistle-blower, C. Thompson, sounds this piercing faith-in-humanity shrill: travel writers, as a rule, are a loathsome lot of sell-outs. Who knew?
Melody Hitchner
Feb 16, 2017 Melody Hitchner rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017-read
Chuck Thompson says he's on a mission to tell the truth about travel writing, to expose the ant-covered backside of the glossy travel mag though we thought that glossy mag travel writing was essentially anything other than sponsored content in the first place.

His real goal is to prove that he's cooler than you or I; he misses no opportunity to expose the dullness of our lives by contrasting it with that time he did this real gritty thing (like ripping some Daft Punk B-sides, whaaaa
Jan 01, 2017 Jenny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
Snarky, singular, entertaining, ridiculous, harsh, amusing. Clearly he loves his job.
Jan 18, 2017 Rueben rated it really liked it
It baffles me as to why so many good reads get trashed on Goodreads.

Christine Zibas
Feb 13, 2016 Christine Zibas rated it really liked it
If you are looking for "sun-kissed beaches" or lands that are a "mix of the Ancient and modern," you won't find them here. Travel Writer Chuck Thompson instead takes his readers behind the curtain to expose what true travel is all about (even those perfect travel-writer-comped moonlit dinners are accompanied by droning PR staff). It's not a pretty picture a lot of the time, despite what travel magazines and guidebooks would have you believe.

Thompson (whose writing credits include several books a
Dec 31, 2007 Justin rated it liked it
Turned onto this one by a Portland friend who grew up with Chuck Thompson in Alaska. I found it immensely readable and entertaining. Thompson's goal is to turn typical notions of travel writing on their collective ear. After decades in the business he has many stories that weren't fit to print by the glossy rags and websites that wish only to satisfy lucrative airline and hospitality advertising accounts, therefore only publishing the most nauseatingly sweet and luxurious (and usually embellishe ...more
May 13, 2010 Jenny rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, essays, memoir
I have always wanted to travel, but haven’t. Anyone who knows me will know this truth, so it is no wonder that my friend bought me this book. Chuck Thompson has set forth to debunk the myths of travel writing diction with, “Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer” and as far as I’m concerned, he’s made a clever argument.

He explains what it’s really like travelling in poor countries, what capitalism feels like in the east, what it’s like to run into foreigners of all nationa
Bernie Gourley
Sep 23, 2011 Bernie Gourley rated it really liked it
Smile When You're Lying gives one an insiders view of the deceit rife in travel writing. In the process, Chuck Thompson tells his story of life on the vagabonding circuit. Instead of being a story of idyllic and pristine white sand beaches, it's the story of drug and booze riddled expats and the prostitutes they frequent.

Thompson lived a colorful life. He tells of how his interest in Thailand began when he heard stories in a jail in Alaska. He introduces cast of characters, such as Shanghai Bob
Jan 09, 2012 David rated it really liked it
I will admit I read this book while staying in a Mexican resort (and feeling pretty guilty too). It was such an easy, funny and hard-hitting book, that I finished in one day. I had read his second book a year ago in Mexico as well and enjoyed it although it took a bit to red through the rough language and images. This book is more of a autobiography and at the same time, an attack on the travel industry, travel writers and all of us who need to get away. Since I had read his second book first, i ...more
Patrick McCoy
Sep 21, 2011 Patrick McCoy rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
Chuck Thompson’s Smile While You’re Lying is a very entertaining book. It is a little hard to categorize since it functions as a travel book, memoir, and take down of the travel writing industry. That being said, Thompson has a sharp wit and a gift for inventive similes and entertaining anecdotes. His books are also of special interest to me since he was a JET (Japanese Exchange Teaching) Program in 1987 (I was also a participant on JET 10 years alter in 1997). He lived in the Japanese Alps in G ...more
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